The Divine Comedy

/ La Divina Comedia /

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The Divine Comedy is an epic poem by Dante Alighieri, begun c. 1308 and completed 1320, a year before his death in 1321. It is widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature. The poem’s imaginative vision of the afterlife is representative of the medieval world-view as it had developed in the Western Church by the 14th century. It helped establish the Tuscan language, in which it is written, as the standardized Italian language.

On the surface, the poem describes Dante’s travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise or Heaven; but at a deeper level, it represents, allegorically, the soul’s journey towards God. At this deeper level, Dante draws on medieval Christian theology and philosophy, especially Thomistic philosophy and the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. Consequently, the Divine Comedy has been called “the Summa in verse“. The work was originally simply titled ”Comedìa” and the word Divina was added by Giovanni Boccaccio. The first printed edition to add the word divina to the title was that of the Venetian humanist Lodovico Dolce, published in 1555 by Gabriele Giolito de’ Ferrari.

As the geometer intently seeksto square the circle, but he cannot reach, through thought on thought, the principle he needs, so I searched that strange sight.

Written in the first person, the poem tells of Dante’s journey through the three realms of the dead, lasting from the night before Good Friday to the Wednesday after Easter in the spring of 1300. The Roman poet Virgil guides him through Hell and Purgatory; Beatrice, Dante’s ideal woman, guides him through Heaven. Beatrice was a Florentine woman whom he had met in childhood and admired from afar in the mode of the then-fashionable courtly love tradition, which is highlighted in Dante’s earlier work La Vita Nuova.

Durante degli Alighieri was a major Italian poet of the late Middle Ages. His Divine Comedy and later christened Divina by Boccaccio, is widely considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature. Dante has been called “the Father of the Italian language”. In Italy, Dante is often referred to as il Sommo Poeta (“the Supreme Poet”) and il Poeta; he, Petrarch, and Boccaccio are also called “the three fountains” or “the three crowns”.

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* All art in this series was carved by the beautifully talented Gustave Doré

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